Archive for: November, 2009

"ID theory" hasn't been "reduced to" a tool in the Culture Wars - that's what it was designed as.

Nov 30 2009 Published by under Anti-Evolutionism

Over at The Austringer, Wes Elsberry has been engaging in a bit of debate with BeliefNet blogger David Opderbeck over Opderbeck's views on the Dover Intelligent Design case. The bulk of their disagreement seems to center on the appropriateness of Judge Jones' decision to rule that Intelligent Design is not a scientific concept. Opderbeck thinks Jones should have avoided the topic; Wesley disagrees.

This is long-familiar ground, of course. The Discovery Institute has been complaining that Jones should have stayed a long way away from the question of whether or not ID is science for years now - despite the fact that they themselves submitted an amicus brief in the Dover case that seems to ask Jones to address that topic. Given that the plaintiffs and defendants both asked the court to rule on whether or not ID was science, I think that Wesley is on much firmer footing than Opderbeck.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about right now.

When I was looking at Opderbeck's side of the argument, something he said about the Intelligent Design movement caught my eye - mostly because it seems to reflect a certain ignorance of the Intelligent Design movement as it actually exists:

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8 responses so far

The WikiLeaks Pager Archive Dump: Who's Been Intercepting Private Texts, and How Long Has It Been Going On?

Nov 25 2009 Published by under Science and Public Safety

WikiLeaks.org - a group that's dedicated to posting leaked material from governments and other major institutions - has obtained and is currently publishing an archive of over 500,000 text messages that were sent, intercepted, and archived on 11 September 2001. The messages begin several hours prior to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and span the time of the attack and the following hours.

As the WikiLeaks intercepts page notes, this material is undoubtedly going to be a fantastic resource for anyone who wants a better understanding of how people reacted as events unfolded. However, the mere existence of this archive raises enormous concerns. Where did it come from? Who compiled it, who stored it, and under what authority?

Given the scope and magnitude of the archive, it is virtually impossible to believe that any non-governmental group could be responsible. The texts were sent over multiple telecommunications carriers, and do not appear to be related to any single agency, governmental or otherwise. Many of the early messages appear to be automatic warnings from computer systems to their operators, and many of those appear to be related to the financial industry, and not a government agency.

It's also important to note that the archive begins prior to the attacks. This is not something that can be excused as a response to the attacks, or as a new tool needed in the new post-9/11 world. This -whatever exactly it might be - is very clearly a project that was ongoing prior to the official start of the "War on Terror".

Who compiled these texts? Who told them to, and under what authority? When did it start, and has it ever stopped?

Those questions need to be answered, and they need to be answered soon.

11 responses so far

Did Doug Hoffman Just Cross the Line Separating "Dirty Politics" and "Defamation"?

Doug Hoffman recently posted a new fundraising letter on his blog. Now, I know some of you might be wondering why the guy is trying to raise money for an election that already happened. It's simple, really. He wants to keep fighting until he gets the seat in Congress that ACORN stole from him.

No, really, that's what he's claiming (if you click the link, make sure you note the url):

As evidence surfaces, we find out that reported results from election night were far from accurate. ACORN and the unions did their best to try and sway the results to Obamacare supporter Bill Owens.

(Also, note that he never gets around to specifying which unions. Apparently, that's because all of them were out to get him.)

The "evidence" that Hoffman cites in his letter, is unsurprisingly, nothing of the sort. He's taken the mistakes that were uncovered in the election night vote totals - which have narrowed the gap between him and Representative Bill Owens. The mistakes were the kind of thing that happen in every election - results get miscopied, phone problems happen, things go wrong. Most people see election night errors as a good reason to double check the results after the election. Hoffman sees them as evidence of the involvement of that fantastic wingnut all-purpose boogeyman ACORN:

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11 responses so far

E. J. Dionne on Senate Stupidity

Nov 19 2009 Published by under Flaming Small-Minded Stupidity, From the Left

As many of my regular readers know, I often find myself frustrated by something that's happening (or, more often, not happening) in the United States Senate. Over the past several years, I've been repeatedly stunned by the near-complete absence of skill, competence, or leadership demonstrated by Harry Reid - particularly when it comes to actually getting the Senate to do anything more than twiddle, fiddle, and resolve.

Given that, I was mostly pleased with E.J. Dionne's take on the Senate problem in his most recent WaPo column. His analysis of the issue, the way he hi-lighted the Republican obstructionism even on bills that they ultimately voted for, and his suggestion that voters are getting fed up with the problem were all spot-on. Unfortunately, however, his conclusion did not quite manage to hit the mark dead-center:

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5 responses so far

The ACORN Lawsuit: Correcting the More Egregious Misstatements and Misunderstandings.

Nov 16 2009 Published by under Bipartisan

Predictably enough, the news that ACORN filed a lawsuit challenging Congress' decision to bar ACORN and it's "affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations" from receiving federal funds has attracted a bit of attention, both in the traditional media and on blogs. Predictably enough, there's a great deal that's being said about the suit that either distorts the facts or just plain gets things wrong. Predictably enough, I'm unable to sit idly by when someone is wrong on the internet, so I'm going to try to identify and correct some of the more egregious errors that have been popping up.

I'm going to start by looking at an assumption that seems to be at the root of many of the arguments in favor of Congress' decision to defund ACORN:

1: Congress decided to give ACORN the money, so Congress can take away the money anytime it wants to.

One of the more explicit examples of this argument comes from American Spectator's Doug Brandow:

The argument really is too silly to refute. Once it votes money, Congress isn't allowed to defund any organization in the future until, what, a full-scale trial? Or does that principle apply only if the organization has misused the cash? In contrast, the Red Cross could be defunded tomorrow because it hasn't gone around advising would-be pimps and prostitutes? Or does this rule apply only to left-wing groups whose misdeeds were caught on tape?

That argument leaves out one very important fact: although Congress explicitly voted to bar ACORN from receiving Federal money, Congress did not actually vote to give most (if not all) of the money in question to ACORN.

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12 responses so far

A Helpful Hint for Orly Taitz:

Nov 13 2009 Published by under Accidental

When attempting to score cheap political points on the backs of dead American soldiers in your legal filings, it is generally considered to be a good idea to take the time to get at least one or two of the basic factual details correct. Like maybe the number killed in the incident you are referring to. Or their ages. Or their gender. This type of thing just doesn't cut it:

If someone were to have common sense, brains and strength of character to challenge allegiance of Nidal Malik Hasan in court, after he made numerous anti-American and antimilitary statements, maybe 12 young boys wouldn't be 6 feet under today, maybe 12 mothers and 12 fathers wouldn't had their hearts ripped out of their chests and torn apart.

It might also be a good idea to try to remember that making "anti-American" and/or "antimilitary" statements isn't actually a crime in the US, and that there is actually no way that I know of for someone to challenge the "allegiance" or citizenship of an American-born US citizen in court. Unfortunately, that requires far more ability to comprehend the Constitution than Taitz has ever been able to demonstrate.

13 responses so far

ACORN, Attainder, and our Craven Congress

Nov 12 2009 Published by under Bipartisan

Thursday morning, a Federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of the community group ACORN and two of its affiliated organizations. The groups are, unsurprisingly enough, claiming that a recently passed provision in an appropriations bill barring federal funds from going to either ACORN or "any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations" violates several of their Constitutionally guaranteed rights. They're asking for a restraining order, temporary, and permanent injunction barring enforcement of the section.

Although the specific law in question is not the same as the bill that we were discussing here and on Ed Brayton's blog several weeks ago, it accomplishes the same things. The only substantial difference is that the pending bill is tied to the continuing appropriations legislation, and is set to expire whenever the continuing resolution does. It's only been in effect for a few weeks, but it's already taken a real toll on real people.

According to affidavits filed in support of the complaint (pdf), just one of the affected organizations - the ACORN Institute - has already had to lay off 17 of its 20 employees. The ACORN Institute is a separately-run organization, and has virtually no overlap between its board of directors and ACORN's own board (one ACORN Institute board member is an alternate member of ACORN's national board). The ACORN Institute has not been convicted of any crime, and none of its employees have been convicted of any crimes related to anything that they've done for the organization. The programs that the ACORN Institute carries - or, rather, carried - out are basic social services work that's entirely unrelated to the voter registration programs that caused the controversy.

The ACORN Institute has lost funding not because of anything that they've been accused -much less convicted- of actually doing, failing to do, or conspiring to do. Congress passed a law that effectively terminated their existing federal contracts, barred them from applying for any new federal contracts, and barred other organizations from subcontracting with them on anything that received federal money. Congress did this because they've been deemed to be an "affiliate" of ACORN - a group which Congress dislikes and believes has engaged in criminal conduct, but which has not yet received the benefit of any sort of judicial due process, or even Congressional hearing.

Let me say that one more time, so that it sinks in: the ACORN Institute has had contracts revoked without due process because they've been legislatively declared to be an associate of a group that Congress decided to punish for alleged but as yet unproven corporate misconduct.

That's wrong.

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5 responses so far

Gun Control, The Military, and Nidal Hasan

Nov 12 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

ScienceBloggers Greg Laden and Matt Springer have both weighed in on the weapons used by Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan. Matt disagrees with the basic gun control argument that Greg initially raised, but focused primarily on correcting some factual errors that Greg made in a later post. Unfortunately, Matt seems to have some incorrect assumptions about firearm availability on military installations. He also seems to have missed at least one important factual point about the firearms that were used in the shooting.

Matt starts off quite badly, at least from the perspective of the facts on the ground:

If my fellow SB friend Greg wants to spin the Ft. Hoot shooting as a cause for gun control then frankly there's pretty much nothing further to say. You'd think a @#$% major in the @#$% army on a @#$% army base just might not have been terribly inconvenienced in procuring weaponry even if every civilian gun in the hemisphere vanished in a puff of sunshine and wishful thinking. But I was going to leave it alone, assuming that that particular point makes itself.

First of all, the military tries hard - and usually succeeds - in keeping tight control over military weapons of all kinds. When not in use, weapons are kept under lock and key, and only certain people have access to them. Hasan did not have access to so much as a sidearm at the time of the shootings. This was undoubtedly one of the main reasons that he bought his own weapons.

By the way, I would expect that when the court-martial papers are drawn up, Hasan will be facing some weapons charges. He was almost certainly in violation of the regulations that cover the ownership of personal weapons by soldiers, carrying personal weapons on base, transporting personal weapons onto the base, and probably a few other things for good measure.

And, believe me, there are regulations that cover ownership of personal firearms by soldiers and on base. If Nancy Pelosi were to propose a national firearms law that mirrors the military's regulations tomorrow, it's entirely possible that the entire senior leadership of the NRA would suffer collective apoplexy.

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38 responses so far

Quote of the Day - 7 Nov 2009

Nov 07 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934 - December 20, 1996)
Pale Blue Dot (p. 6)

5 responses so far

Correcting some of Chris Matthews Misunderstandings: More on the Fort Hood Shootings

Nov 05 2009 Published by under Misc

The amazing amount of uninformed speculation that's coming out of the mouth of Chris Matthews right now is mind numbing. Speaking as someone who lives and works on a military post, I have absolutely no doubt that I have a better understanding of the dynamics of the military base than he does.

I'm just going to hit some of the major issues.

1: In the United States Army, it's hard to describe a Major as a "high ranking officer". It's typically a mid-career rank. Given that there are somewhere around 5000 officers assigned at Fort Hood, I would be surprised if there were fewer than 500 Majors assigned to the post. I would not be surprised if there were 1000.

2: As one of the guests has repeatedly pointed out to Matthews, it is not yet certain that there was more than one gunman involved. It's possible that the two additional people arrested were involved. It's also possible that the MPs were erring on the side of caution, and grabbed everyone who might have been involved. Any speculation about motives is just that - speculation.

3: Given that Gov. Perry didn't have the updated number of injured when he made his statement, I'd give the 3-star's statement that the arrested suspects are not confirmed shooters more credence than Perry's statement that all 3 were shooters.

4: Regarding the "lax security" question that someone asked in Perry's press conference: there's only so tight you can lock down an active-duty post and still keep things functioning.

5: Rep Sestak is discussing this as a mental health issue, and an issue regarding mental health care available to the military. Whether that's relevant to today's tragedy or not - and it's looking increasingly likely that it is - he's right.

6: Regarding the recent promotion of the identified shooter: the criteria for promotion to major in the medical corps are not very rigid at all. If you don't massively screw up, you get promoted.

7: The more details I here about Hasan, the more bizzare this sounds. He's apparently a psychiatrist who graduated from Uniformed Services University Med School. That's about the least likely person I can think of to be involved in this.

8: Matthews is even less informed this hour than he was at 4. That must have taken some effort.

9: The lack of information about casualties is not a surprise. It's likely that at least some of them do not have local next of kin, and notifications may take some time.

UPDATE:

10:
Yeah, Chris Matthews is a flaming idiot. Army Officers, even psychiatrists, are expected to know how to shoot a handgun.

UPDATE 2:

11: Pete Williams has some knowledge deficits, too. Hasan would have been treating patients throughout his residency. And it's entirely possible that he only found out about the deployment very recently. It's not at all unusual for doctors to get last minute orders. Doctors are frequently last-minute plugins for deploying units.

12: No, he got the MD first, then the MPH.

UPDATE 3:

13: I'm somewhat surprised that Olbermann is going with his regular program. But at least it will cut down on the massively uninformed speculation about Ft. Hood.

11 responses so far

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